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    March on Islamabad…the last gamble article by Ayaz Amir - 10-14-2016 07:29 PM

    Pakistan News : Imran Khan Protest to Islamabad, PTI Islamabad Protest 2016 – Not the least of this season’s ironies: the threat to assault the capital and shut it down would not have come, indeed would not have been possible, without the impressive show at Raiwind, next to the Sharif Palace at Jati Umra, now maintained at public expense, because they’ve declared it PM’s camp office.

    In a previous column I had said this wall, no doubt soon to be recognised as a national monument, had cost a modest 45 crores. I have since been corrected: true cost, 75 crores.

    There’s no one to beat us when it comes to these ingenious swindles…living in official palaces and then declaring your private estate a camp office so that the state ends up paying for your posh lifestyle.

    This would count as brazen plunder anywhere else, matter for impeachment not the fairytale which is accountability. Islam indeed, why don’t we stop talking about Islam? If this was early Islam, a page out of the first caliphates, this money would be recovered from their pockets. Here everything goes and we bat not an eyelid and call it democracy.

    Here’s a thought: if Islamabad could be shut down permanently no greater favour could be done the Islamic Republic. Of all the useless things we have created over the years the founding of this city takes the prize. It has done us no good and may have caused us harm in the sense that our Bengali brothers and sisters, whom we got rid of all those years ago, could never quite relate to it. In the alienation of East Pakistan, Islamabad has a chapter all to itself.

    But these are empty musings. We face a real problem and that relates to Imran Khan’s threat, made at the Raiwind jalsa, that unless there was movement on the scandal engulfing the prime minister and his family – offshore accounts and Mayfair flats never disclosed to either the Election Commission or the tax authorities – he would be left with no recourse except to lead his followers to Islamabad on October 30.

    Before Raiwind when there was no shortage of souls convinced it would be a flop and that Imran had it coming for him and would be deeply embarrassed, this would have been an empty threat and the ruling party’s regular trumpeters would have filled the airwaves with laughter and ridicule. But after the success of that show the buglers are strangely quiet, their bragging gone as if they now fear the worst.

    Even the line much propagated by the PML-N that Imran was all alone with no other political party standing with him has lost its edge. I personally thought that without the Sheikh-ul-Islam’s ready force of committed workers, who had demonstrated more than once during the 2014 dharnas and marches their unrivalled ability to put the janissaries of the Punjab and Islamabad Police to headlong flight – spectacles worthy of any Hollywood action movie – Imran faced a serious problem. But sensing the challenge before him he got down to some hard work, pulling off the whole thing by himself, on the strength of his own party, with no help from any other quarter.

    It was a valuable experience and now Imran needs no props to prepare for the march on Islamabad, the Pakistan Tehreek -e-Insaf (PTI) finally learning, after all these years, that charisma and star appeal, while important if not crucial for a mass party, are still not enough substitutes for organisation and planning. There was no one more charismatic in the ring than the great Muhammad Ali but that never meant that he could take his training lightly.

    Imran knows what is at stake. Having given the challenge he can’t afford to take it lightly. Ticket-holders, members of assemblies, key persons, are being given quotas to fulfil…workers and activists that they must bring to the capital. And workers are being asked to bring blankets and food with them. This attention to detail is a new thing for the PTI.

    Previous to this the PTI was very good at organising jalsas…they would take care of the sound system (the DJ Butt phenomenon), the lighting and the stage preparations. But blankets and food and the digging of latrines which I read in an Urdu paper they are going to do this time are things that religious parties were good at. The Jamaat-e-Islami, the Sheikh-ul-Islam’s PAT, at their conventions which could go on for several days would do these things. This was never the PTI’s forte.

    Its jalsas were sound-and-light shows. For the first time it is behaving like an army on the march, realising the importance of logistics – an army which must march on its stomach and which must also look to the digging of latrines, and the provision of clean drinking water, etc. The Sheikh-ul-Islam’s distancing may thus turn out to be a blessing in disguise for the hitherto disorganised PTI. When put to the necessity of cooking most of us, unless completely helpless with our hands, manage to turn out something or the other.

    Organisation, in any event, comes not so much from theory as practice…the hard school of experience through which, of necessity, the PTI and its enthusiasts are passing.

    The Sheikh-ul-Islam, for his part, may have missed a great opportunity. Begun with such fanfare his qisas movement has ended with a whimper. The likely outcome of his sudden eruptions and equally sudden departures is that when the final count is taken he will be remembered more as a preacher, a televangelist, than a man of action.

    The world of Islam has never lacked for preachers – theologians and textbook professors, all endlessly explaining the hidden points of scripture. From the decline of the Islamic civilisation starting from the mid-thirteenth century when Halagu Khan’s army sacked Baghdad down to the present, these theologians have been explaining Islam, writing books on the meaning of the Quran. But as Marx said in a similar context, the point is not to explain the world but to change it.

    More power to the Sheikh-ul-Islam’s preaching. Although I can’t help thinking that the commitment and dedication of his followers, mostly from the less privileged sections of society, by far outweigh the sound and import of his scholarly brilliance.

    So what happens when the 30th comes? It’s all up in the air. Various government quarters are threatening drastic action. But what do the Panama Leaguers have at their disposal? Nothing more than the dharna-tested and found-wanting lions of the Islamabad and Punjab police forces. And the police have seen how they were used in Model Town – pushed to mercilessly gun down the Sheikh-ul-Islam’s followers, and then largely left to their own devices. Model Town haunts the Sharifs. It also haunts the Punjab Police. And when PTI workers descend on Islamabad somewhere on the horizon will still linger the ghost of Model Town.

    To make matters worse for the government, just when it needed the army’s support the most it could not curb its penchant for over-cleverness. The Almeida story, which Dawn is treating as its passport to heroic immortality – comparing it already, Lord help us, with the Pentagon Papers – was comprehensively leaked by someone in the PM’s office. Who dunnit? That’s the question and not anything to do with that pious humbug called ‘freedom of expression’. This was not the time for such a leak.

    Anyway, I’ve already booked a room for the 29th…can’t wait to cover the excitement, unless this too, to my chagrin, ends with a whimper.

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